Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Kansas at Rutgers – Noon on BTN
Rutgers is 1-2 on the season after getting obliterated, 28-3, in their B1G opener at Penn State. The Scarlet Knights step back into non-conference play with a matchup against possibly the worst Power 5 football program in the country, the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas is 0-2 on the season and had a bye last week. They began the season by losing to South Dakota State (an FCS school) and Memphis. The Tigers have a pretty good team and are doing quite well under Justin Fuentes but the score of that game was 55-23, not a good look for any Big 12 squad.
Rutgers will again be without the services of Leonte Carroo (awaiting trial on assault charges) and head coach Kyle Flood (suspended for conduct violations stemming from inappropriate contact with faculty) as they try to keep the season from completely derailing. The Scarlet Knights rushing attack was completely shut down last week against Penn State. With the talent Rutgers running backs, that’s completely unacceptable and I’d expect for it to be remedied on Saturday.
(22) BYU at Michigan – Noon on ABC
If BYU’s first three games are any indication of what’s to come in this one, expect a fun game with a thrilling finish. The Cougars (2-1) won on late Hail Mary passes at Nebraska and at home against Boise State and saw a last-minute drive come up just short in Pasadena against UCLA. Tanner Mangum leads the way on offense after Taysom Hill’s injury in the opener. The offense will be tested against a stingy Michigan defense and a raucous Big House crowd. The Wolverines, as expected, appear to be ready to rely on their defense and running game to grind out victories and their physicality will test BYU.
One thing to keep an eye on is which running back gets the most carries. More importantly, which running back is able to do the most with the carries he gets? Two weeks ago, De’Veon Smith led the way on the ground. Last week, Ty Isaac gained 114 yards on only eight carries to insert himself into contention for more action. Michigan will need adequate play from quarterback Jake Rudock to win this one.
Central Michigan at (2) Michigan State – Noon on BTN
Michigan State finds itself in rarified air, ranked as high as their program has been since the 1960s. After a fairly comfortable (although it could have been much closer with a bit of luck for Air Force) victory last Saturday against the Air Force Falcons, the Spartans are 3-0 and ready to close out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a clash against in-state foe Central Michigan (1-2). The Chippewas have competitive losses to Oklahoma State and Syracuse sandwiched around a blowout victory at Monmouth so far this season.
This could be a somewhat tricky matchup for Michigan State. Central Michigan is led by quarterback Cooper Rush (983 yards on the season) and a strong passing attack (14th in the country). They don’t really make a concerted effort to run the ball and their defense isn’t particularly strong but they may be able to put up enough points through the air to stay competitive. Michigan State will try to re-establish their running game after a very poor performance on the ground against Air Force. Expect a fairly comfortable victory for the second-ranked Spartans but I don’t think this will be a laugher.
Southern Mississippi at Nebraska – Noon on ESPNews
Nebraska is 1-2 for the first time since 1981 after losses to BYU and Miami. The Huskers were awful for the first three quarters of the game against the Hurricanes but they rallied in the final nine minutes to force overtime. Unfortunately, Tommy Armstrong threw an interception and Miami nailed a field goal to walk away victorious. Southern Mississippi is 2-1 with wins over Texas State and Austin Peay and a defeat to Mississippi State. Nebraska should be able to handle the Golden Eagles rather easily and I’d expect quite a few points to light up the scoreboard in Lincoln.
Bowling Green at Purdue – Noon on BTN
In last week’s “Viewing Guide”, I wrote that Purdue needed to find a way to get to 2-2 in the non-conference to at least feel somewhat good about the future under Darrell Hazell. They were blasted by Virginia Tech and now face the high-powered Bowling Green Falcons in what I consider a “must-win” contest for the Boilers. Matt Johnson leads the nation in passing yards and Roger Lewis leads the country in receiving yards. The Falcons scored 30 against Tennessee, 48 against Maryland and 41 against Memphis. Purdue just gave up more than 50 points to a Virginia Tech squad playing with a backup quarterback.
It’s not all bad news for Purdue fans. Bowling Green is only 1-2 because their defense is really awful. In fact, the Falcons have the 120th ranked defense in the country and are giving up 43.4 points per game. The Boilers should try to pound the ball with Markell Jones and DJ Knox to keep Bowling Green’s offense off the field. Doing that should also make things a bit easier for new starting quarterback David Blough. Blough, a redshirt freshman, will be making his first career start after Austin Appleby was benched because of excessive turnovers.
Indiana at Wake Forest – 12:30 on ACC Network (or ESPN3)
Hoosier Huddle will have extensive coverage of this game. Make sure to see our Primer and Know Your Opponent articles and listen to our preview podcast!
Maryland at West Virginia – 3:00 on FS1
The Maryland Terrapins (2-1) rebounded from a very disappointing loss to Bowling Green last week with a victory over South Florida. Their offense looked more explosive under Caleb Rowe than it ever did under Perry Hills and they were able to do enough on defense to keep South Florida at bay. That win was rather important because they are now heavy underdogs as they travel to Morgantown to play the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Mountaineers are 2-0 after dominant victories against Georgia Southern and Liberty. Georgia Southern has a dangerous triple-option offense so shutting them out in a 44-0 victory was extremely impressive.
Just a few years ago, WVU had a mind-blowing offense led by the likes of Steve Slaton and Tavon Austin. They had quarterbacks like Pat White and Geno Smith pulling the strings and putting up 50 points. Now, they’ve been transformed into one of the best defenses in the country. The question is whether or not quarterback Skyler Howard can lead this offense against strong opposition. If the Mountaineers look good against Maryland, it might be time to start taking them seriously in the Big 12.
North Texas at Iowa – 3:30 on ESPNU
The Iowa Hawkeyes are now 3-0 after a thrilling victory over the Pitt Panthers. The fans in Iowa City probably feel better about their squad than they have in more than five years. The offense is producing 29 points per game with a balanced attack and strong play from C.J. Beathard. The defense is holding opponents to only 18.3 points per game. Things just look a little different when watching the Hawkeyes this season. Expect that 3 wins to become 4 as they are heavy favorites against the North Texas Mean Green (0-2). North Texas lost their first two games of the season against SMU and Rice.
Ohio at Minnesota – 3:30 on BTN
I wrote about the accumulating injuries for the Minnesota offense last week and their attack looked even worse than anticipated last Saturday. They were held to only 10 points by Kent State and the attrition from the wide receiver and tight end injuries is now apparent. In addition, they haven’t been able to replace the explosive plays provided by Maxx Williams and David Cobb (both in the NFL now). The Gophers are 2-1 but they should be very careful with the Ohio Bobcats. The Bobcats are 3-0 after comfortable victories at Idaho then at home against Marshall and Southeastern Louisiana. Their defense is only giving up 17.3 points per game and this wounded Gophers offense looks likely to struggle yet again.
Western Michigan at (1) Ohio State – 3:30 on ABC/ESPN2
The Ohio State Buckeyes are 3-0 but they came under some scrutiny last week after a very shaky performance against Northern Illinois. The defense has been terrific all season but the offense, billed during the preseason as “one of the best offenses ever”, is having a hard time generating much of anything. Braxton Miller hasn’t produced since the opening week win at Virginia Tech, Cardale Jones has yet to play well and the offensive line isn’t opening up the gaping holes for the running game that we all expected to see. JT Barrett has looked better than Jones but he hasn’t played well enough to wrestle the starting job from the incumbent. Western Michigan is just 1-2 after losing to Michigan State and Georgia Southern to begin the season and then bouncing back to hammer Murray State last week.
Ohio State should win comfortably but we thought the same thing going into last week’s game against Northern Illinois. It will be interesting to see whether or not the Buckeyes offense figures some things out after a week of questioning and criticism. Remember, OSU comes to Bloomington next week.
San Diego State at Penn State – 3:30 on BTN
Penn State’s defense was absolutely suffocating in their 28-3 victory over Rutgers last week. The Nittany Lions held Rutgers to only 43 rushing yards on 32 carries and forced a pair of interceptions from Chris Laviano. In turn, the Penn State offense turned to the ground game and got 195 rushing yards from Saquon Barkley and 120 rushing yards from Akeel Lynch. In total, the Nittany Lions outgained Rutgers on the ground 330 to 43. Christian Hackenberg continued to do very little, going 10-19 for 141 yards and one interception. They will close out their non-conference schedule with a contest against 1-2 San Diego State. The Aztecs have some very interesting options for uniforms and helmets but they shouldn’t present much of a challenge on Saturday. They lost to Cal (35-7) and South Alabama (34-27) before this contest and if you can only score seven points against Cal’s porous defense, I don’t feel good about your chances against Penn State.
Middle Tennessee at Illinois – 4:00 on ESPNews
Hello Illinois, welcome back to Earth! After an incredibly impressive first two weeks, the Illini were given a hard slap of reality in Chapel Hill as North Carolina racked up 471 yards and pulled away for a discouraging 48-14 victory. The defense that looked so good against Kent State and Western Illinois wasn’t able to slow down the Tar Heels attack, either through the air or the ground. Wes Lunt locked in on Geronimo Allison too often and struggled to get the ball to anyone else. Josh Ferguson was very good but he was really the only Illinois player to get rolling.
They’ll try to rebound against Middle Tennessee (2-1). The Blue Raiders scored 70 and 73 points in their two victories (Jackson State and Charlotte) and lost to Alabama, 37-10. I don’t really know what to think of either one of these teams but Illinois’ confidence must be shaken after their dispiriting performance last week.
Ball State at (17) Northwestern – 8:00 on BTN
The Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) continued their surprising season with a hard-fought 19-10 victory at Duke. They are now ranked 17th in the polls and feature one of the better defenses in the country. I think there should still be concerns about Clayton Thorson’s ability to bring this team from behind when necessary but that hasn’t impacted them thus far and probably won’t this Saturday night either. The Ball State Cardinals are 2-1 with wins over VMI and Eastern Michigan and a loss to Texas A&M. The Cardinals fell behind 17-0 at EMU but scored 28 unanswered points so they come into this one with some momentum.
Hawaii at (22) Wisconsin – 8:00 on BTN
The Wisconsin Badgers (2-1) have rebounded from their opening week loss to Alabama with a pair of dominant victories over Miami (OH) and Troy. The biggest storyline surrounding this start might be the “struggles” of the running game. Normally the focal point of the team, Wisconsin is near the bottom of the B1G in rushing yards and rushing attempts. They’ve gotten really good play from Joel Stave and the injury to Corey Clement certainly hasn’t helped the rushing attack but it has been odd to see the Badgers not running over opponents at will.
Hawaii has victories over Colorado and UC-Davis and a loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. They were shutout by OSU so it will be interesting to see how their offense fares just two weeks later against the Badgers. Corey Clement is apparently still absent with an injury so we’ll see if Taiwan Deal and Dare Ohunbowaie can progress before Wisconsin takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a key B1G West clash on October 3.